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Decentralization: Fueling the Fire or Dampening the Flames of Ethnic Conflict and Secessionism?


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  • Brancati, Dawn
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    Political decentralization is widely believed to reduce ethnic conflict and secessionism in the world today. Yet decentralization is more successful in reducing conflict and secessionism in some countries than in others. In this article, I explore why this difference occurs. I demonstrate using a statistical analysis of thirty democracies from 1985 to 2000 that decentralization may decrease ethnic conflict and secessionism directly by bringing the government closer to the people and increasing opportunities to participate in government, but that decentralization increases ethnic conflict and secessionism indirectly by encouraging the growth of regional parties. Regional parties increase ethnic conflict and secessionism by reinforcing ethnic and regional identities, producing legislation that favors certain groups over others, and mobilizing groups to engage in ethnic conflict and secessionism.Earlier versions of this article were presented at Harvard University and the Center for the Study of Democratic Politics at Princeton University. The author would like to thank Sandra Alfonso-Leon, James Alt, Micah Altman, Barry Friedman, Shigeo Hirano, Simon Hug, Gary King, Rose Rozaghian, Tulia Falleti, and two anonymous reviewers for their very helpful comments.

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    Bibliographic Info

    Article provided by Cambridge University Press in its journal International Organization.

    Volume (Year): 60 (2006)
    Issue (Month): 03 (July)
    Pages: 651-685

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    Handle: RePEc:cup:intorg:v:60:y:2006:i:03:p:651-685_06

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    Cited by:
    1. Matthias Basedau, 2011. "Managing Ethnic Conflict: The Menu of Institutional Engineering," GIGA Working Paper Series 171, GIGA German Institute of Global and Area Studies.
    2. Ranis, Gustav, 2010. "Diversity of Communities and Economic Development: An Overview," Working Papers 6, JICA Research Institute.
    3. Myerson, Roger, 2014. "Constitutional Structures for a Strong Democracy: Considerations on the Government of Pakistan," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 53(C), pages 46-54.
    4. Yannis Karagiannis, 2014. "Communication effects, ethnicity, and support for secessionism in stateless nations: results from a survey experiment in Catalonia," EUI-RSCAS Working Papers p0386, European University Institute (EUI), Robert Schuman Centre of Advanced Studies (RSCAS).
    5. Tranchant, Jean-Pierre, 2007. "Decentralization and Ethnic Conflict: The Role of Empowerment," MPRA Paper 3713, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    6. Plata, Mar de, 2009. "Reunión Comisión de Descentralización y Autonomía Local Congreso FLACMA
      [Reunion Committee on Decentralization and Local Autonomy]
      ," MPRA Paper 16563, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    7. Hudson Meadwell, 2011. "Spatial models of secession-proofness and equilibrium size," Quality & Quantity: International Journal of Methodology, Springer, vol. 45(3), pages 641-652, April.
    8. Grasa, Rafael & Camps, Arnau, 2009. "Conflict Prevention and Decentralized Governance," MPRA Paper 18877, University Library of Munich, Germany.


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